Referral sources, or Make Friends with More Data

In my last blog post we talked about identifying the common characteristics of your most successful volunteers.  We then discussed how a deeper understanding of those commonalities informs your volunteer recruitment plan.  Hopefully, besides your DNA analysis, you are also tracking referrals.  How do volunteers hear about your program? Taking a close look at your referral sources can be just as illuminating as a DNA study.

Tracking referral sources is a best practice in volunteer recruitment and many readers are no doubt already doing so.  The luckiest of us have sophisticated volunteer management software that runs reports and takes all the hard work out of the process.

referrals imageEven if your program operates on a shoestring budget, this is a simple process. Set up a spreadsheet with three columns: name of the inquirer, the referral category (Internet, newspaper, personal referral, etc.), and the specific source of the referral (which website, newspaper, or person).   Measuring this data now will help you get more sophisticated later.

After several months of tracking, you will start to see patterns.  Some of these patterns will confirm what you already know anecdotally.  Your local volunteer center might be doing the heavy lifting for you recruitment-wise, and your referral tracking bears that out.  Or one particular newspaper brings you a steady stream of volunteers.

 

More is not always better

But are the numbers-heavy referral sources the ones you want to push? If that last volunteer fair brought in 30 prospects, should you pack up your brochures and go again? Not necessarily.  More is not always better.

Remember, we are focused on recruiting successful volunteers who will remain with your program.  Those volunteers may or may not come to you from the most popular sources.

When you market your program, you only want to focus on the referral sources that have brought you your most successful volunteers.

In my program, a good 40% of inquiries come from an online volunteer clearinghouse. However, only 2% of the volunteers who complete training and stay on as volunteers come to us from this source.  Our most loyal volunteers come to us through personal referrals. That tells me that my time is far better spent raising our program’s visibility to boost referrals than pushing out more listings on the clearinghouse.

This kind of data will become your best friend when it comes to recruiting the volunteers you need for your program, and it’s the foundation of a solid volunteer recruitment plan.

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